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Natural Resources & Energy

Bat Festival Returns To Devils Tower

A little brown bat rests on a person's hand.
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Little brown bats are listed as species of concern. They're found around Devils Tower.

The National Park Service (NPS) and Devils Tower Natural History Association are hosting a bat festival this Saturday, Sept. 25 at Devils Tower National Monument. The festival will feature educational talks, showcase technology that allows people to hear bat echolocation calls, and will give people the opportunity to build their own bat houses using repurposed lumber. The 2020 bat festival was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

A big focus of the festival this year will be educating visitors about white-nose syndrome - a deadly fungal disease of bats that was recently detected at Devils Tower. Biologists are especially concerned about it because there are 11 species of bats that call Devils Tower home. Two are species that biologists are worried about - the little brown bat is a species of concern and the northern long-eared bat, which is listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

"It's not just those two species, although they are listed and it is concerning, we do want to make sure that we're paying attention to all of our species, and make sure that we know how each species is being affected. Because even though one might serve a certain niche, we want to make sure that we know how it's affecting every species that we have within the park," said biological science technician Monique Metza.

Bats play a big ecological role in pest control for local agriculture, which is something the organizers hope will encourage people's interest in them.

"These bats go everywhere in the community around us, and as white-nose syndrome spreads throughout the bat community here, it means a lot to the agricultural community here," said Chief of Resources Management Russ Cash. "And so if white-nose decimates the population of bats here, we're going to lose out on that natural pest control. And we want to help those individuals understand that doing what we can here to study these bats and better understand how we can protect them has benefits that go beyond ecological conservation."

Saturday is Public Lands Day and has been designated a fee-free day at Devil's Tower.

"It's mostly to educate those that are around us, and help them understand the connection that they have to the Tower here, what occurs at the Tower and the things that we do here at the Tower, how it affects their lives, and how the things we have here can affect them in their daily lives and benefit them too," said Cash. "So Public Lands Day was a great opportunity to ensure that everybody would get a chance to come here without it being a financial burden."

The event is from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Picnic Area. Organizers ask those planning to attend to bring a flashlight or headlamp, with a red lens if possible, and to dress in layers for cold weather.

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